13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
This is one of the most interesting books on the Supreme Court I have ever read, and I have been reading them for the past 45 years or so. Within the last ten years or so, increasing attention has come to be paid to the Court's law clerks and their important role in the functioning of the institution. Originally, the focus of interest was whether the clerks exercised too much influence on the decision-making processes of their Justices. A much richer perspective was developed individually by the two editors of this volume, in separate books I reviewed on Amazon. That perspective entails examining such issues as how are the clerks selected, what responsibilities do they assume, and how they interact with their respective Justice and the other Justices as well. The many authors of these essays lay it all out in fascinating detail. The authors are either former clerks writing about their own Justice, or students of the Court who are conversant with the growing literature on the clerks
First up is a discussion of the creation of the clerk position by Justice Horace Gray between 1882 and 1902, continuing his practice from his service on the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts. Gray had to pay his clerks out of his own pocket; eventually, Congress funded a position for each Justice. The clerk's role underwent serious development beginning in the 1920's, and that is where the essays begin with Holmes, Brandeis, Cardozo (by his biographer, Andrew Kaufman), and Stone (written by the amazing Bennett Boskey, still practicing here in Washington in his mid-90's). These all are great essays; what a way to kick off the volume!
Next, the editors take us into what they term the "Premodern Clerkship Institution," with two essays on Black, and individual essays on Frankfurter, Douglas, Rutledge and Whittaker. Also included are essays on the first female clerk, Lucile Lomen, and African-American clerk, William Coleman--somewhat of an institution here in Washington. Some surprising judicial pictures emerge, with Frankfurter turning out to be a warm mentor to his clerks while Douglas treats them somewhat like serfs. Once again, the essays in this section are all top-notch.
The "Modern Clerkship Institution" collects the final group of essays. The subjects are Warren, Brennan, Goldberg, White, Thurgood Marshall, Blackmun, Powell, Rehnquist and Ginsburg. These essays are particularly interesting since they are drawn from the modern court period of 1953 to the present. Of these, I found editor Artemus Ward's essay on Rehnquist particularly insightful and valuable. Not only do we learn something of Rehnquist the man, but also how the Chief Justice's law clerks (including the present CJ, John Roberts) functioned in an somewhat more expansive role than the Associate Justices' clerks. An afterword by reporter Tony Mauro and an appendix of two documents (including a key letter from Rehnquist's co-clerk under Robert Jackson in reference to who wrote the famous memo "A Random Thought on the Segregation Cases" that caused Rehnquist much trouble during his confirmation hearings to become CJ) conclude the 410-page volume.
The two primary benefits of this collection are: (a) we learn about the informal personalities of some major Justices; and (b) we see how absolutely essential the clerks are to the effective functioning of the Court. In fact, I would suggest that one really can't understand how the current Court works without consuming this volume--it is that good.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on September 24, 2012
An apt title, as this collection of mini-memoirs puts you right in the Supreme Court chambers (and sometimes at home) with the Justices and their clerks.
The book is an insightful look into the inner workings of the Court...worth the time for anyone interested in the legal process at the top of the pyramid.
on May 15, 2013
A thoroughly enjoyable read, complete with several surprisingly humorous and touching anecdotes about the Justices and their relationships with their law clerks throughout history. Not something everyone will find interesting, including most lawyers (especially most lawyers?). But for someone interested in the Court as an institution or curious what law clerks do there and elsewhere, it's worth checking out. A special tip of the cap to contributing author Kevin J. Worthen, for his touching, humorous, and wonderfully written tribute to the late Justice Byron White.
0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on November 4, 2013
Although Jeffery Toubin is considered the "expert" on the Supreme Court,this book adds a fresh perspective and things Mr. Toubin didn't know.I highly recommend this to anyone interested in the Supreme Court and behind the scenes knowledge.